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Thursday, October 16, 2014

5 Tips for Awesome Flash Photography

Your first camera might have been a compact camera (film compact camera if you are older than, say, 25). Or, it might have been a mobile phone camera. Since, you might have got a DSLR - or a mirrorless. One common element in all of these cameras is their on-board flash (some phones might not have one). More importantly, their flash is fixed, forward-looking, and in some cases (particularly with compact and mobile phone cameras) it is impossible to adjust its output. This means one thing:

People grow up photographically learning bad habits about flash photography.

You see, the worst possible way to use a flash is to use a direct, head-on flash at night, trying to illuminate a subject relatively close to the camera. Especially with an automatic flash (like most compact cameras or mobile phones have) that will simply bathe the subject in light, leaving everything else in the dark. That is the black hole effect: an overexposed subject, with shiny hair and skin, as well as harsh, unflattering shadows, and dark, severely underexposed surroundings.

Flash photography, truly artistic and innovative flash photography, is a far more complicated issue. Whole books have been written about it:

This article will not attempt to teach you excessively complex setups (perhaps a future article series might allows us to say more about flash techniques); instead, with today's article, I want to give you 5 simple and concrete tips for instantly better pictures. I have tried to construct the tips so that both beginners and advanced photographers alike can find them useful. I assume only one thing: you have a Nikon DSLR and an external flash. That's all. No 5-flash setups, no umbrellas.

Mastering flash photography is a major element of success in a variety of situations

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Travelling with a DSLR Is a Bad Idea

This will probably be a bit controversial, but the purpose of this website is not to pat people on the back. Nor is it to comfort you and tell you the things you need to hear to justify a purchase. You might disagree, and that's OK - after all, we are all different and we have different priorities.

Today's topic:
Travelling with a DSLR is a bad idea.

Let me rephrase that:
Travelling with a DSLR on a family/personal vacation is a bad idea.

Travelling can be for a variety of reasons. You might be on a business trip to Tokyo, paid fully by your company. You might be on a photographic expedition to Brazilian rain-forests. Or, you might be on a 1-week beach holiday with your girlfriend/boyfriend. All these are very different kinds of travel, and they involve different kinds of photography dynamics. Obviously enough, if you travel somewhere with the sole purpose of taking photos, you are outside the scope of this article. This might also be the case if you're travelling solo to Tokyo for 2 days, and the only free time you'll have will be 2-3 hours in one evening to visit Shibuya. You might as well throw the camera and a 24-70 zoom into the bag, right?

Taken with a mobile phone camera. Not a masterpiece; it wouldn't have
been even if I had a DSLR with me. I was focused on enjoying having cocktails
with the one I love, not on taking photos.
But things are different when you're on a personal/family vacation. Consider this scenario: You're working or studying much of the year, and you plan to have this lovely 1-week vacation with the people you care about. You'll be going some place warn and nice, with lovely beaches. You plan to get some nice suntan, enjoy the water, enjoy the company of your loved ones.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sigma AF 24mm f/2.8 Super Wide II Review: Bang for the Buck Alert!

24mm is a focal length that is not very useful for DX (cropped sensors), as it barely qualifies as wide angle (the FOV is equivalent to a 36mm lens, which is more in the 'normal' range rather than wide angle). And so, a large number of older lenses that qualified as wide-angle back in the days, were forgotten in the first years of the digital era. However, as we now have a healthy number of full-frame options, many of those lenses have made a comeback. This Sigma AF 24mm f/2.8 Super Wide II is one such lens. I got one thinking to review it and then probably sell it. Well, I changed my mind - I'm keeping it! Yep, you guessed that right: Bang for the Buck alert!

Wide-open it's very good. Only a tiny bit better closed-down.
Notice how the bokeh maintains its smoothness even at f/5.6

+ superb optically! Very good resolution wide-open, excellent stopped down to f/5.6 - corner to corner! No big flaws otherwise, either (more details below).
+ small and light, as you'd expect.
+ very good close-focusing characteristics - I think the reproduction ratio is 1:4